Remember how innocent your favorite American Idol contestants looked when they first appeared on the TV show? While some of these contestants went on to become successful mainstream performers, it’s so interesting to look back at their days before they had access to top fashion stylists, makeup artists, and hairdressers. Let’s face it: Your favorite American Idol stars had some pretty adorable — and awkward — looks from way back when.
Some of our favorite American Idol alumni, like Carrie Underwood or Kelly Clarkson, look so sophisticated and glamorous now compared to their former selves while they were auditioning. They’ve grown up and become mothers, but they’ve gone through some pretty impressive style transformations as well. And who could forget beloved stars like Chris Daughtry or Sanjaya Malakar? They sang their way into the country’s hearts as American Idol contestants, even though they didn’t win the competition. (P.S. One of them recently changed his look so much that we’d never recognize him on the show!)
The iconic show may have gone out with a bang in its series finale in April 2016, with performances from some of its beloved personalities, but it wasn’t gone long. American Idol made a triumphant return to television again in March 2018 — and we couldn’t be happier to have it back on our TV screens.
Click through the gallery to see what your all-time favorite American Idol contestants look like today:
Simon Cowell American Idol
Simon Cowell, Season 1-9 Judge
The 58-year-old is now a dad to a young son, Eric. Since being a judge on Idol, Cowell has starred as a judge on a number of other TV talent show competitions, including X Factor and Britain's Got Talent.
Paula Abdul American Idol
Paula Abdul, Season 1-8 Judge
Now 55, the former Idol judge and pop singer recently went back on tour for the first time in nearly 20 years. Before getting back onstage as a singer, though, Abdul appeared as a judge on TV for other shows, such as So You Think You Can Dance.
Randy Jackson American Idol
Randy Jackson, Season 1-12 Judge
Jackson, now 61, had the longest run as a judge on Idol, but he's now moved on to other things. He recently launched Starwest Production Studios, an all-in-one space for both music and video production.
Ryan Seacrest American Idol
Ryan Seacrest, Host
Seacrest remained host of the show from season 1 straight through to the finale — and he has returned as a host after the brief hiatus. The 43-year-old is also a host of the nationally syndicated radio show On Air with Ryan Seacrest.
Adam Lambert American Idol
Adam Lambert, Season 8 Runner-Up
The 36-year-old is now a successful singer-songwriter who has released three studio albums.
Danny Gokey American Idol
Danny Gokey, Season 8 Finalist
The 37-year-old, who touched hearts with the sad story of his wife passing shortly before he went on the show, has found happiness again with a new wife and has three beautiful kids with her.
Kris Allen American Idol
Kris Allen, Season 8 Winner
The 32-year-old is still a successful singer-songwriter, who has released five albums. He's also the proud dad of two kids.
Brian Dunkleman American Idol
Brian Dunkleman, Season 1, Co-host
The stand-up comedian and former co-host appeared on the show’s series finale and wrote all but one of his lines.
Kelly Clarkson American Idol
Kelly Clarkson, Season 1 Winner
As Idol’s first winner, Clarkson has had countless hit singles and continues to make music and win awards today. Now 35, the hardworking mom of four performed on the Idol series finale.
Justin Guarini American Idol
Justin Guarini, Season 1 Runner-Up
Now 39, Guarini has lobbied for music education and has also dabbled in acting on Broadway.
Ruben Studdard American Idol
Ruben Studdard, Season 2 Winner
The 39-year-old R&B and Gospel singer is still performing music. He's also appeared on a few TV shows, including The Biggest Loser.
Clay Aiken American Idol
Clay Aiken, Season 2 Runner-Up
Now 39, Aiken is still singing, but he's also made a positive impact off stage by raising awareness for at-risk youth issues.
Fantasia Barrino American Idol
Fantasia Barrino, Season 3 Winner
The soul singer, now 33, is still singing and touring. She recently released her first Christmas album.
Diana DeGarmo American Idol
Diana DeGarmo, Season 3 Runner-Up
Still a singer and also now a Broadway performer, this 30-year-old enjoys both her musical career and a love-filled life with husband and fellow Idol alum Ace Young.
Jennifer Hudson American Idol
Jennifer Hudson, Season 3 Finalist
Between making music, movies, and even starring in a Broadway play, it's clear this talented 36-year-old is still putting her impressive pipes to good use.
William Hung American Idol
William Hung, Season 3 Hopeful
The accidental star of an off-key rendition of Ricky Martin's "She Bangs," Hung, now 35, got a new gig in law enforcement as a statistical analyst.
Carrie Underwood American Idol
Carrie Underwood, Season 4 Winner
Named Billboard’s Country Music Reigning Queen, the award-winning performer married hockey player Mike Fisher in 2010, and had a son, Isaiah, in 2015.
Bo Bice American Idol
Bo Bice, Season 4 Runner-Up
Shaggy-haired Bice has cleaned up nicely! The married dad of four has also started his own record label and still performs with his band, Blood, Sweat & Tears.
Constantine Maroulis American Idol
Constantine Maroulis, Season 4 Finalist
Since coming in sixth on Season 4, Maroulis has found enormous Broadway success, starring in Rock of Ages, which earned him a Tony nomination.
Taylor Hicks American Idol
Taylor Hicks, Season 5 Winner
The silver-haired country-soul singer has returned to TV to host a food and travel series, State Plate.
Katherine Mcphee American Idol
Katharine McPhee, Season 5 Runner-Up
A runner-up on the fifth season, McPhee has released five albums but has also turned to acting, starring on TV shows including NBC hit Smash and CBS's Scorpion.
Chris Daughtry American Idol
Chris Daughtry, Season 5 Finalist
Best known as lead vocalist for his band, Daughtry, the fourth-place contestant is the third most successful American Idol contestant in terms of record sales.
Kellie Pickler American Idol
Kellie Pickler, Season 5 Finalist
This talented 31-year-old proved she could do more than sing in 2013, when she and partner Derek Hough won Dancing With the Stars.
Jordin Sparks Then And Now
Jordin Sparks, Season 6 Winner
The youngest person ever to win Idol is still in her 20s, releasing albums, and performing. Sparks is also an ambassador for a nonprofit organization called Disabled American Veterans.
Blake Lewis Then And Now
Blake Lewis, Season 6 Runner-Up
The beatboxer extraordinaire has released three albums and is still performing.
Sanjaya Then And Now
Sanjaya Malakar, Season 6 Finalist
The most-talked-about contestant — despite less-than-stellar reviews from the judges — still sometimes plays music. During the summer of 2016, Malakar performed at free outdoor concerts in Washington.
David Cook Then And Now
David Cook, Season 7 Winner
Cook is now a married man who performs across the country.
David Archuleta Then And Now
David Archuleta, Season 7 Runner-Up
Archuleta has a massive social media presence and still tours around the country for his adoring fans.
Jason Castro Then And Now
Jason Castro, Season 7 Finalist
Now the married father of three girls, Castro started a band called Castro with his two younger siblings.